Tagaytay—Chihiro Ikeda snapped a long run of poor form with a two-under 70 in sweltering heat here yesterday as she seized a one-stroke lead over amateur Eagle Ace Superal and Thai pro Tiranan Yoopan at the start of the ICTSI Tagaytay Midlands at the Midlands layout.
The power-hitting multi-titled shotmaker, who went on a slump with a slight hand injury after ruling the Eagle Ridge leg of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour early last year, used a combination of solid driving and iron play and steady putting though a late-hole stumble marred what could’ve been a superb start for the former SEA Games gold medalist.
But finishing with a 70 in hot conditions and finding herself in the lead were enough to make her day.
“I’m so exhausted, it was so hot out there,” said Ikeda, who birdied Nos. 6 and 9 from close range then drilled in an eight-foot side-hiller on the 16th storm ahead. She, however, missed the 17th green and hit a poor chip shot for the lone black mark in an otherwise impressive 34-36 card under preferred lies rules.
“I’m just glad to be in the lead,” she added. “I was doing pretty well in the morning but when we reached the turn, it got nasty and I had to literally huff and puff for every shot.”
The way the rest did to survive the challenge in the early going of the P750,000 event serving as the ninth leg of the seventh LPGT season with Superal charging back from a double-bogey start to join Yoopan at second at 71; Thai Onkanok Soisuwan and Daniella Uy matching par 72s; and former leg winner Saruttaya Ngam-usawan, also of Thailand, Pauline del Rosario, Lucy Landicho and amateur Pamela Mariano turning in identical 74s.
Superal of Team The Country Club, who placed third in last week’s Asia-Pacific Junior Championship in Singapore whose sister Princess ruled this event in record fashion (16 strokes) last year, recovered from that shaky start with three birdies in the last five holes, including the par-5 Nos. 16 and 18.
Due for a big win, Yoopan failed to sustain a birdie-birdie feat from No. 6 and dropped a stroke on the eighth before settling for a run of pars as she kept her bid for a breakthrough victory in the circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“My driving and short game were okay but I couldn’t get a good read of the greens at the back,” said Yoopan.
Uy holed out with a birdie on the 18th to salvage a 72 and tie Soisuwan, a runaway winner at Mt. Malarayat leg last year, at 72 while Ngam-Usawan hit back-to-back birdies from No. 16 to save a 74 for joint sixth with del Rosario, Landicho and Mariano.
Del Rosario, installed as the top favorite here following her 14-shot victory at Royal Northwoods where Ikeda placed joint fifth last month, birdied No. 4 from close range but struggled the rest of the way, yielding strokes on Nos. 5, 9 and 15 to fall four strokes behind Ikeda with 36 holes left in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Empire Golf and Sports and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.
“There’s a lot of work to be done tomorrow (today). I have to play it smart and not be too aggressive,” said Del Rosario, who is set to leave for the US after the event to resume her buildup for the LPGA Tour Q-School in August.
Landicho, who ruled Tuesday’s pro-am with Carlos Tuason, Nemi Pagtakhan and Leomax Reyes, missed joining Soisuwan and Uy at fourth with bogeys in the last two holes while Mariano birdied the last hole to keep Superal within sight in their battle for low amateur honors.